Don't Miss in Sardinia
The Nuraghe Palmavera archeological site in Alghero located on the Southern slope of the mountain of the same name is one of the most important settlements dating to prehistoric times. The nuraghe, divided by two towers and surrounded by a defense wall and a village, is an opportunity to explore the remains of an ancient civilization.
Walk along the pier at Porto Cervo in Costa Smeralda, which was created by Aga Khan in the 1960s. Gaze at the bevy of beautiful yachts moored in the harbor. You can also charter your own yacht for a memorable day on the water. Look for prestigious sailing races, such as the Sardinia Cup, the Swan World Cup and the Maxi Yacht Rolex Cup.
Take a stroll around Alghero's Old Walled Town, making sure to stop at the 14th-century ornate Church of San Francesco Cloister. Try a lobster dish. It is said that the lobsters in Sardinia are among the tastiest in the world and that England's Queen Elizabeth ordered them from Sardinia for her wedding dinner.
In Cagliari, visit the Citadel of Museums and Castle District with its bevy of museums. The National Archeological Museum (open 9 a.m. to 7:15 p.m.) showcases Sardinia's ancient history, with finds dating back as far as the Pre-Nuragic era (6,000 B.C.). The National Gallery (open 9 a.m. to 8 p.m.) is housed on three floors with displays of Spanish artwork dating to the 14th century. Check out the Wax Museum (open 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. and 4 p.m. to 7 p.m.) featuring wax models of human anatomy created by artist Clemente Susini and the Museum of Siamese Art (open 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.) with its vast collection of Siamese and Oriental art. All museums are closed on Mondays.
Cagliari Botanical Gardens, with its hundreds of trees and thousands of plants, was established in 1866 by the University of Cagliari. Located at the bottom of the Roman Amphitheater, the gardens also contain ancient Roman and Phoenician cisterns. (Open 8:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m., closed Saturday and Sunday)
Try one of the classic scuba diving spots around Sardinia. Among the fascinating options are the sea caves of Capo Caccia. The Cave of Neptune with its monumental stalagmite and bird-nesting fountain is accessible by sea with daily trips by boat from the port, or you can climb the set of 660 steps into the cliff side.
In Porto Cervo
Hiking through the Gola Su Gorropu canyon provides quite a challenge for any hiking enthusiast. Allow 4 to 5 hours for the scenic roundtrip hike that includes many cliffs and caves. Spring and autumn are the best times to hike in Sardinia, as the temperatures are mild.
The Selvaggio Blue is one of Europe's most difficult hikes with stunning views of the Gulf of Orosei. The 30-mile trek is on Sardinia's isolated coast near Costa Smeralda and includes tough terrain.
Hop aboard the Trenino Verde (The Little Green Train), a historic steam locomotive. Of the four lines, the Mandas/Arbatax line is considered the most scenic. A vintage rail car crosses the southern slope of Mount Gennargentu National Park, in the provinces of Nuoro and Ogliastra, a wild and unspoiled area of forest and wildlife (mid-June to mid-September).
For a sweeping view of Cagliari rooftops, take the panoramic elevator at Piazza Costituzione to the top of Bastione San Remy. The elevator built from 1899 to 1902 affords stunning views of the city.
Visit the San Benedetto Market with its tasty variety of produce and fish and for a glimpse of the locals as they barter for the best prices. The market, one of the largest in Europe, is on two floors. The first is devoted to fish, with many varieties, from lobsters to baby crabs and oysters. (Open 7 a.m. to 2 p.m. Monday to Saturday, closed Sunday)